True Love

“Dear friends, let us love one another,
for love comes from God.”
1 John 4:7 NIV

What passes for love can often be simply—a transient emotional state of mind. When we shine the light of Scripture on the subject of love we see that true love is a verb (an action) more than a noun (a thing or emotion).

Genuine love is not particularly “an itch you can’t scratch” nor is it primarily a feeling. Love is an activity rather than a state of being.

When we look at 1 Corinthians 13, the writer tells us that love is a way of relating to people rather than simply an emotion.

Over and over in Scripture we read statements like,  (Ephesians 5:2)

“Christ loved us and gave Himself for us.”

The best known and cherished verse in this regard is John 3:16 where we read,

“For God so loved the world that He gave…”.

So genuine, biblical love is an activity that benefits the one loved. When we want to know if someone loves the Lord or not we need to remember the words of Jesus in John 14:21(NIV)

“Whoever has my commands
and keeps them is the one who loves me…”

True love for the Lord is seen in obedience to Him. We maintain fellowship with the Lord as we keep His commandments. In fact, Jesus said in John 15:10 (NIV)

“If you keep my commands,
you will remain in my love…”

We cannot overestimate the necessity of obedience to prove our love for the Lord and our true relationship with Him.

Measure your love for the Lord by your obedience to His will and your joy in doing His will.

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Finding God

“Come near to God
and he will come near to you.”
Mark 10:21 NIV

What does it mean to draw near to the Lord? Where can we find the Lord? There are numerous ways to come near to the God Who made us. Let’s look at several ways to come near the Lord.

Perhaps the most important place to come near to the Lord is through reading His Word, the Bible. God’s voice is supremely heard in the words of Scripture. In its pages the Bible holds much information on our Creator and He has spoken with great clarity.

No imagined voice of God can contradict the teaching of the Bible. If we think the voice of God told us to steal fruit from the food store we may be certain it was not the voice of God because He has said,

“You shall not steal.”
Exodus 20:15

Every “voice” we hear from the Lord must conform to the Bible or be rejected as from Satan. God cannot contradict Himself. So here is the first and most important place to hear the Lord, the Bible.

Another important place to draw near to the Lord is in the fellowship of the saints when they gather to worship God and hear from Him through the preached word. Preaching that is biblical will be used of God to come near to His covenant people.

We hear the voice of God when we study the universe He has created. The Psalmist has written,

“The heavens declare the glory of God…”
Psalm 19:1

When we look on the heavens at night and see how majestic it is we find ourselves lost in wonder, love, and praise.

We draw near to the Lord when we listen to long time Christians describe their love for the Lord and as they declare His faithfulness.

We hear the voice of God in our trials and temptations.

Sorrow has a way of bringing us into the throne room of God—where He speaks words of love and grace to our hearts. God’s amazing grace is never better experienced that in the midst of adversity.

Prayer and expressions of adoration to the Lord are a means of grace, and warm our hearts to sing God’s grace. Many times I have sensed the nearness of the Lord in my times of private worship and praise.

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How Much Do You Love Jesus?

“Jesus looked at him and loved him.
‘One thing you lack,’ he said.
‘sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow me.’”
Mark 10:21 NIV

When the enthusiastic young ruler came to Jesus he had a most important question to ask the Lord. “Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” No question is as important as this one for anyone in any age.

The answer Jesus gave to this question seems puzzling. He said that the young man should sell everything he owned and join the twelve in following Jesus. Why did Jesus tell the young man to reduce himself to the lowest level of poverty in order to inherit eternal life?

The answer is found in the reaction of the man to Jesus’ request. He went away sad and refused to give up his wealth in order to follow Jesus. The young man loved Jesus but he loved his wealth more. In this story we once again see Jesus demonstrating His ability to know the hearts of people. The young man wanted eternal life but he wanted his wealth even more.

We should not take from this story that Jesus wants everyone to sell all their possessions in order to have treasure in heaven. What Jesus did to the young man was show him just how much he trusted in wealth and how impossible it was for him to trust the Saviour while he served a god of gold.

Many people today in western society have more faith in their wealth, their excellent medical system, their retirement savings—than they have in the Lord.

A few years ago I was in Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries ministering to Christians there. They impressed me with their enthusiastic worship and devotion to the Lord. Yet they had almost nothing of wealth. They were among the poorest people in the world. Their treasure was the Lord plus nothing. I learned from those wonderful people to treasure the Lord above everything.

Are you sorrowful today because you are poor and without much by way of earthly treasure? You should rejoice because now you can give all of your trust and love to the Saviour and offer Him heart felt praise.

The person who has Christ and all the wealth of this life is no richer than the poorest person who only has Christ. Be content with what you have Christian friend because you have the Lord and He is enough.

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Grace Or Judgment?

“For God sent not his Son into the world
to condemn the world;
but that the world through him
might be saved.”
John 3:17 KJV

I am fascinated by the reasons some people have for not believing in the Lord and instead prefer agnosticism or outright atheism.

Some of the brilliant agnostics/atheists of the last two centuries have had a difficult relationship with their human father. Some had their father desert the family by running off with a woman. Others had fathers who did not care for the family as they ought to have done.

Also some fathers were cruel. Most atheists of note had genuine difficulties with a human father and some psychologists feel a poor father image caused these people to reject a God Who called Himself “Father”.

Some, of course, feel uncomfortable with the accountability that believing in a Creator automatically brings with it. They desire to live as they wish and so reject the notion of a God to whom they must give account some day.

Once a person denies a future judgment they can then live in the comfort that their actions will not condemn them at some future date.

Our verse today should encourage people to give serious thought to the message Jesus brought with Him. It was a message of salvation and reconciliation to God. Jesus’ first concern was not to write people off, but instead to urge them to repent and believe in Him and be forgiven.

The first coming of the Saviour was to call people to Himself for salvation and eternal life. Only at the second coming will the theme of judgment be prominent.

Today is a time of grace and salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). At the end of this age there is only judgment with no hope of salvation on that day.

Jesus said in Mark 2:17 ( KJV)

“I came…to call…sinners to repentance.”

So the Good News is the first part of the Christian message and the latter part is that judgment shall come on all who refuse the Good News.

The Lord even asks people the question, in Ezekiel 33:11 (NIV)

“Turn! Turn from your evil ways!
Why will you die…?”

God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but calls on all people everywhere to turn and come to Him.

May we act mercifully to those who have not yet turned and urge them to study the teaching of Jesus and see that He is full of grace and mercy.

What a gracious Saviour is ours! How lovingly ought we to represent Him to those who still sit in darkness and the shadow of death (Luke 1:79). May you find opportunity today to speak for your Saviour to those who so desperately need Him.

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The Right Kind Of Knowledge

“…that I may know Him…”
Philippians 3:10

The man who wrote our text for today had been a Christian for many years. He had founded a large number of churches and was possibly the greatest of the first generation missionaries. He wrote extensively on the subject of theology and church issues. Prior to his conversion to Christianity he had been a leading light in Judaism.

The context of our text describes the many achievements of Paul. After describing how much he had accomplished, he says he counts it all as loss for the sake of knowing the Saviour.

There are many accomplished people in every generation who define themselves by their achievements in life. A certain pride comes with winning awards and having the praise of others. It is altogether too easy to overestimate our significance in the scheme of things when we have attained a certain level of social and professional accomplishments.

When a person of Paul’s ethnic background speaks of knowing someone or something he/she does not mean an intellectual comprehension or having a significant awareness of the detail of a subject. For a Jew of Paul’s day, the notion of “knowing” a person or subject meant to have an intimate relationship to the subject or person.

A person who wrote a book that gave significant detail about marriage but who had been divorced numerous times would not know about marriage according to Paul’s understanding of what it meant to know about something.

So when the apostle spoke of his great desire to know Christ he did not mean that he wanted to know facts about Jesus. He was not talking about having a superb grasp of the detail about Jesus—such as where He was born, how many apostles He had and their names. Paul was seeking a relationship with the Saviour where he would think Christ’s thoughts, experience the emotional life of the Lord and treasure what Christ treasured.

To know Christ was to imitate Him in every aspect of life.

Do you know Christ in this manner? Have you gone beyond an intellectual apprehension of Jesus to where you derive great pleasure from prayer to Him, to where you delight in imitating the Saviour, to where you weep as you see how He suffered for your sins? Is it your great joy in life to honour and praise your Saviour?

This is what it means to “know” the Lord Jesus Christ. May your knowledge of the Lord go far beyond having many facts about Him memorized to where you daily find yourself lost in wonder love and praise when you meditate on Him.

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